Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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degrees. All Russia is minor; and Russian folksong, I am prone to think, is the most moving and beautiful folk-music in the world. Other influences than the ordinary are therefore at work here, and their discovery need not detain the reader's mind long. [ Suffering is suffering, whether it be physical or spiritual, whether it spring from the unfriendliness of nature or the harshness of political and social conditions.]
While Russian folksong is thus weighted with sorrow, Russian folkdance is singularly energetic and boisterous. This-would seem to present a paradox, but the reason becomes plain when it is remembered that a measured and decorous mode of popular amusement is the normal ex­pression of equable popular life, while wild and desperate gayety is frequently the reaction from suffering. There is a gayety of despair as well as of contentment and happi­ness. Read this from Dr. Norman McLeod's "Note Book" :"My father once saw some emigrants from Lochaber dancing on the deck of an emigrant ship and weeping their eyes out! This feeling is the mother of Irish music. It expresses the struggle of a buoyant, merry heart to get quit of thoughts that often lie too deep for tears. It is the music of an oppressed, conquered, but deeply feeling, im­pressible, fanciful and generous people. It is for the harp in Tara's halls!"
The rhythms of folksongs may be said to be primarily the product of folkdances, but as these, as a rule, are in­spired by the songs which are sung for their regulation, it follows that there is also a verbal basis for rhythms. Whether or not this is true of the rhythmical elements which have entered into Afro-American folksongs cannot be said, for want of knowledge of the languages spoken by the peoples (not people, for they were many and of many kinds) who were brought from Africa to America as slaves. An analogy for the "snap," which is the most pervasive element in the music which came from the Southern plan­tations (the idiom which has been degraded into "rag­time"), is found in the folk-music of the Magyars of Hun­gary; and there it is indubitably a product of the poems.
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